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Two Omicron clusters identified as CMO warns of potential surge in hospital cases

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Health officials have identified two clusters of Omicron, with 12 cases of on-island transmissions of the coronavirus variant confirmed.

Ayoola Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, said Omicron been found in people aged from “under 20 to under 60”.

He added he expected to see a continued rise in Omicron numbers and warned the island to brace for a potential surge in hospital cases.

Dr Oyinloye said: “While the initial information we have about this virus may be less virulent — and the jury is still out on this — the sheer pace of the spread means that we could end up with numbers that are beyond what we had for Delta in the hospital.”

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said yesterday the number of Omicron cases had doubled since Monday and represented at least half of the active cases.

She added: “Because this variant is highly transmissible, we anticipate that the numbers of positive cases of the Omicron variant to increase significantly and quickly.

“We must collectively do everything we can to avoid mass community transmission. Do not let your guards down.”

Ms Wilson emphasised personal responsibility and highlighted that the Government “can’t be everywhere”.

She said: “We’ve been at this for 20 months.

“We have maintained that we have to get to a point in life where we are living with Covid. We have to live with it.”

Ms Wilson added a Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee would meet on Monday to decide if tougher restrictions were needed.

She said the island was prepared to handle a fifth wave of Covid-19 and highlighted the stringent border test regime.

Ms Wilson appealed to the public to take an antigen test before they attended any gatherings, particularly where there may be vulnerable people.

She said that a new set of SafeKey codes for vaccinated people would be issued on January 15.

Fully vaccinated people who become eligible for the booster shot six months after their second dose will have to get the third shot to qualify for the new SafeKey.

People who have had the second dose of the vaccine but who have not got to the six-month mark will still receive the new SafeKey because they were not yet eligible to get the booster.

Ms Wilson said that vaccine supplies were adequate, but the vaccination drive would take a break over the holidays to give staff time to rest and come back “ready to fight this battle in early January”.

She added: “Most if not all of the vaccine appointments leading up to Christmas are full now.

“But we are looking to restart vaccinations as early in the new year as possible.“

Dr Oyinloye said that the hospital was “really well prepared” and had restocked after the last wave, with additional antiviral drugs available.

He said that studies of the Omicron variant were still in their early stages.

But he added that vaccines appeared to be less effective against Omicron and most positive cases were being found in vaccinated people, mainly those who have recently travelled.

Dr Oyinloye said: “Once people have had their booster, your protection level increases up to about 80 per cent, so that is one the things we can do to make sure people are protected.”

He said health officials were confident that fully vaccinated people would be less likely to need hospital treatment for Omicron and it was important to protect the vulnerable and elderly population.

The Government last night announced that the number of active coronavirus infections had risen to 62, of which 31 were the Omicron strain.

The Delta strain was the cause of 16 of the cases, but the other cases had not been typed.

One coronavirus victim was in hospital — the first since late November — but is not in intensive care.

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Published December 18, 2021 at 8:09 am (Updated December 18, 2021 at 8:10 am)

Two Omicron clusters identified as CMO warns of potential surge in hospital cases

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